This review includes spoilers
Immersed in longing and nostalgia, The Band reinterprets the music of Take That to tug on the heartstrings in a story surrounding friendship and loss.
We follow five sixteen-year-old girls in 1993 on the cusp of young adulthood, with little distinguishing them from your average teenage group, apart from having better comeback lines and one black friend. Fortuitously that friend, Debbie (Rachelle Diedricks) wins a radio contest allowing the five teens to watch their favourite boy band perform in Manchester. Unfortunately, like a 90’s horror flick, she does not survive past the first 20 minutes of the show and the feel-good pop vibes of the remaining four pass them by with their youth.
We revisit the girl's, twenty-five years later having gained grown-up problems and lost touch. Luckily for the remaining four, Rachel (Rachel Lumberg) is able to score four tickets to Prague, and the girls are content with the prospect of reuniting over their favourite boy bands reunion tour.
Throughout their fraught connections and new dilemmas, The Band features the music of Take That as their personalised soundtrack but never name the group on stage. Boy band, Five To Five feature either in concert mode or as the girl’s spirit guides, popping up and out of props throughout the show. For the inbuilt audience who are going to hear the music of Take That performed on stage, the collection of countless hit songs from Britain’s most successful boy band will not disappoint. You can place any band name into the blank space the group represents so you don’t have to be a fan of the original to enjoy this heart-warming narrative. It's easy to get sucked in with its 4D theatre theatrics throwing smoke and confetti directly into your face, encouraging fans to light up the sky with their phone screens and singalong.
Tim Firth’s original story holds a candle for the fans who continue to hold a candle to their favourite junior jams. In an entertaining and appreciative celebration to pop bands and their followers, this sweet northern tale feels familiar and relatable. Having co-written the stage and film productions of Calendar Girls, The Band echoes Firth’s past work. The production balances nostalgia and sweet performances with a strong catalogue of songs. While the narrative may be riddled with cliches, there are enough original elements to stop the show from becoming a jukebox musical that does little more than replace the dialogue with a popular track. Here the mix of uplifting songs, snappy choreography and clever set pieces create a colourful, fast-paced production. The show wades through smaller personal scenes and grand concert sets, directed by Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder, to play out a light-hearted narrative for its Lowry audience.
The BBC contest winners of Let It Shine, AJ Bentley, Curtis T Johns, Nick Carsberg, Sario Solomona (replaced by Harry Brown in this performance) and Yazdan Qafouri, play out the soundtrack with energetic performances that mirror Take That concerts. Although the story focuses on its female cast, Curtis shines leading a slower performance of Rule the World. Singing in silver trench coats, posing as TSA staff and striking statuesque poses, the show delivers a sentimental and fresh take to its hardcore legions of Take That devotees.
There are bright performances of fan favourites Patients, Flood and Greatest Day, with some songs edited to offer a new spin into the mix of the turbulent storyline. In a gesture of love to the fans, The Band brings a surprising hit that continues to rise in the musical arena and will soon be taking to the West End. Hopefully, the tale will relight the fires of all the fans it was created for.